Monday, February 27, 2012

Guest Post: Brain Extravaganza in Bloomington, Indiana

I'm a big fan of kid-friendly art. Museums and exhibits that go out of their way to ensure that kids can experience culture right alongside their parents are some of my favorite attractions. For example, we visit 100 Acres at the Indianapolis Museum of Art every summer because the art is both interesting and family-friendly.

So when Matt Herndon, a freelance writer and father of three from Indianapolis, contacted me about writing a guest post previewing a new public art project in nearby Bloomington, Indiana called Brain Extravaganza, I was excited to share this new attraction with all of you. Matt explains why Brain Extravaganza is both fascinating and unique.


The human anatomy has been the subject of countless works of art: from the astonishingly beautiful illustrations in Gray’s Anatomy to the morbidly fascinating exhibits from Body Worlds, we have used art as a way to better understand our bodies. But an art exhibit that’s both interesting and family-friendly can sometimes be hard to find.

Brain scientist Jill Taylor is doing her part with the Brain Extravaganza, a collection of 22 giant fiberglass brains designed by a host of different artists and sponsors. Taylor, a neuroscientist whose study of the human brain included her own self-study after a devastating stroke, wants the exhibit to raise awareness about the role the brain plays in the body, as well as how powerful the organ is.

The exhibit will debut in April of this year, and the decorated brains will be placed on street corners all over Bloomington, Indiana. For residents, visitors, and students who attend Indiana University, the brains will serve as works of art that encourage viewers to see their brains in new ways.

So, how can a parent use the Brain Extravaganza to teach their kids about the brain? And how can a bunch of giant brains be a major attraction?

Thought-provoking art

If I can find an activity that keeps my kids interested and gives them a chance to learn, I feel like I’ve hit a jackpot. And Bloomington is a great town for a short road trip: walking through the streets and examining each brain on a warm spring day could be fun for both kids and parents. The five-foot tall fiberglass brains will be decorated to represent a variety of functions and themes: illnesses like bipolar disorder, or themes like memory and communication. The idea is to inspire viewers to think of the brain in new ways, and to teach them about the millions of tasks the brain performs each day. 

Q&A time

The pieces are also designed to raise awareness of rare brain disorders and diseases—one of the exhibit’s sponsors, IU Health Proton Therapy, is one of less than ten facilities that provide proton therapy for patients suffering from specific brain cancers. While you might not have a common knowledge of brain cancers, or how the brain processes thought in fractions of a second, you could use the trip to discuss the science of the brain with your kids. Try to answer their questions—and, if you don’t know the answer, you could use the opportunity to do some research together to discover the answers. The Brain Extravaganza is designed to be one town-wide conversation piece—and getting kids interested in science is always a good thing.

Bloomington is also home to plenty of other attractions—bookstores and caf├ęs, parks and museums—so if you manage to see every piece of art in the Brain Extravaganza, you’ll have other activities to keep you busy throughout the day.

Thanks Matt! I look forward to taking the Arrows on an art walk around Bloomington this summer and see how many brains we can spot. Brain Extravaganza disappears in October, so be sure to get there in the next 6 months or so.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor.

This is a guest post about an exhibit sponsored by IU Health Proton Therapy. I was not compensated for this post, I simply thought it sounded like something that might be of interest to my fellow Hoosier readers and their families.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mr. Potato Head at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Whenever we visit my mom and dad's house, the first toy that Big Arrow digs out of their toy chest is Mr. Potato Head. Does it get any more classic or more fun for a 2-year-old? So I think I let out an audible gasp when I heard that the Children's Museum of Indianapolis was hosting the Adventures of Mr. Potato Head exhibit for a few months.

As you know if you're a regular reader of this blog, that museum is already one of my favorite places for adventure with little kids. So last week when my parents offered to watch Little Arrow for a bit, I decided checking out the exhibit would be a perfect way to spend some much-needed one-on-one time with Big Arrow.

As you enter the exhibit, you're given the chance to play with Mr. Potato Head.

They had more "accessories" than you could ever imagine. I just wanted to spend hours digging through the piles of parts!

Our finished creation. (Who needs a mouth and nose when you have a police belt?)

But playing with the toy is actually not the main feature of the gallery. It's really an opportunity to go on four different adventures with Mr. Potato Head. In one area, he's an archeologist, and you can learn to make tatoglyphs (which you can take home and show to daddy... hello free souvenir!).

In another, you board a space ship and blast off for the stars.

You can also go un an underwater adventure and a safari. We happened to visit while a little show was taking place in the Spud Studio. If you get a chance, do check it out. It helps the exhibit come to life and is really interactive. This is Big Arrow putting on his binoculars so he could *see* all the animals on the safari.

I wrote more about The Adventures of Mr. Potato Head at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis for Visit Indiana here.

And while Little Arrow missed out on the fun this time, much like Mr. Potato Head, he's holding his own head up quite well these days.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lucca Grill in Bloomington, IL

Back in November, my husband and I road tripped up to Madison, Wisconsin for a dear friend's wedding. If you do the math, you'll calculate that I was 9 months pregnant in mid-November (Little Arrow was born December 1). It's about a 7 hour drive, so needless to say I got very hungry. A fun lunch spot was just what the doctor ordered (actually, my doctor probably would have frowned upon this trip to begin with).

I used the Trip Advisor iPad app to help me decide on a good spot near Bloomington, Illinois. We're not familiar with the city whatsoever, but a recommendation for Lucca Grill popped up. They're known for their pizza and that sounded delicious to me. Never one to get in the way of a very pregnant lady's wishes, my husband drove straight there even though it wasn't exactly right off the highway.

It was a charming spot, just a corner pub that's obviously been serving the local community for decades. Established in 1936, the interior is authentically historic. There was a really cool tin ceiling that I should have snapped a photo of.

And the pizza did not disappoint. Here's the mushroom pizza I ordered.

And this is the after shot. (Hey, I had a growing babe to feed!)

If you're ever passing through the area, consider veering a little off the beaten path and indulging in some good, old-fashion pizza.

If you're curious, I managed to get there, be a bridesmaid and have a wonderful time with my girlfriends, and get back home without going into labor.

If You Visit:
Lucca Grill
116 East Market Street, Bloomington, IL
Open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
While it is a pub, kids are welcome and there is a children's menu.

This post is a part of Wanderfood Wednesday at Wanderlust and Lipstick.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Product Review: Munchkin Snappy Bottle Tote

Several weeks ago, the folks representing Munchkin and Dr. Sears sent me a big box of some of their baby and toddler products. I've been a fan of the Munchkin brand since Big Arrow was just a wee little arrow. I find their stuff affordable, accessible (I don't live near a baby superstore, so I prefer things I can find at Target), and still high quality (nobody wants a sippy cup fail while traveling, right?) So over the next few months, I will be publishing reviews of some of the items we've tried out.

First up, the Munchkin Snappy Bottle Tote.*

While a special bag just for bottles would never make my Top 10 Most Essential Baby Items list, I'm really enjoying this tote bag. Something about having two little boys has made me desire "pretty" items in my diaper bag and I love this pattern.

Since I'm still nursing Little Arrow, when he does take a bottle it's important to me that I have a bag that keeps milk cold while we're traveling. I didn't pump all that breastmilk just to see it go bad! This bag is made from neoprene material that insulates well, and its zip top makes me feel confident that everything is staying the right temperature.

It's spacious enough for two bottles and the button feature keeps them separate. I can envision using this bag for keeping snacks cold well into the toddler years for my littlest Arrow.

-Attractive patterns (I love that it doesn't scream BABY BAG!)
-Zip top
-Button features that divides the tote into two compartments

-I haven't found a freezer pack that still allows me to fit two bottles inside. (Not a big deal for me because I usually only travel with one bottle anyway.)
-I wish it had an extra pocket for small items, like a pacifier or bottle parts.

Speaking of Little Arrow, guess what he's been up to lately:

Smiles! Isn't he the cutest?!

I'm linking this post up to Things I Love Thursday at The Diaper Diaries.

*Links to my Amazon Affiliate account. A small portion of any sales made through these links will come back to support this blog, but this does not in any way increase the cost of purchase for you.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary Munchkin Snappy Bottle Tote to review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Amazing Maize at the Indiana State Museum

We're beginning to venture beyond the world of children's museums with our Arrows. (Don't get me wrong, we LOVE a good kid's museum, and you'll be hearing a lot more about them in the weeks to come!) The key for us so far has been to find museums that still have plenty of hands-on experiences to keep Big Arrow interested and engaged.

Amazing Maize at the Indiana State Museum not only teaches adults all about corn (its history and future, uses, industry, etc.), but keeps kids entertained with a variety of activities. I wrote about Amazing Maize for Visit Indiana here. Here are a few of Big Arrow's favorite features:

Mashing corn:

Pulling corn (to simulate the weight of a silo).

Riding tractors, both new...

... and old.

If You Visit:Indiana State Museum
650 W. Washington Street, Indianapolis
Open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays, 11 a.m. to p.m.
Admission is $7 for adults and $4 for children 3-12.
Amazing Maize will be at the museum through January 20, 2013.

Disclosure: I was provided with tickets to the Indiana State Museum. I was under no obligation to write about my time at the museum, and all opinions expressed are my own.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bella Luna in Jamaica Plain

Last weekend we had some amazing deep dish pizza in Chicago and I got to thinking about the many pizzas I've enjoyed around the world. It seems anytime I'm in a place for more than just a few days I end up eating pizza. Normally you think of cities like Chicago, New York and even Rome for some great, signature pizza, but one of my favorites was in Boston. I love when I can associate a great food experience with a great vacation memory, and this is one of those.

On our first night in the city, we were all pretty tired from our travels to get there. We wanted dinner someplace casual, comfortable and not far from our HomeAway rental property in Jamaica Plain. The homeowners we rented from recommended Bella Luna, a restaurant near the Sam Adams Brewery.

This is a place where you'll find what I call "fancy" pizzas. Not the greasy, cheesy slices you might normally order (but make no mistake, I'm a huge fan of those as well). Interesting toppings and unique flavor combinations are the rule at Bella Luna. We did a mix of light and heavy.

The Lover's Lane was sort of like a delicious salad on top of your pizza. Arugula, red onion, tomatoes, and my personal favorite, goat cheese. Very flavorful.

And I can't remember what this bad boy was called, since I no longer see it on the menu (note to self: maybe you should write about restaurants within six months of eating there). But it had ricotta cheese and bacon. Needless to say, it was our "heavy" pizza, emphasis on delicious.

But my favorite part of dining at Bella Luna was the company and the atmosphere. Some of my favorite people on a warm summer evening, kick starting a great vacation. So while I may forget what we ordered, I won't soon forget the memory of eating there. Don't you just want to pull up a chair, order a cold beer, and join us? Big Arrow would probably color you a picture.

If You Visit:
Bella Luna Restaurant
284 Amory Street, Jamaica Plain, MA
Opens at 5 p.m. Sunday-Friday, 11 a.m. on Saturday
Insider Tip: If, like mine, your kids don't like pizza, there are other options on the kid's menu. (Big Arrow better warm up to pizza soon or he's really going to miss out on one of the world's greatest foods!)

Read our Boston Trip Report for more information on our time in this great city.

Next week, I'm sharing another great pizza memory from a recent road trip through the Midwest. This one is much more of the big, greasy slice variety... mmmmm...

Check out what other food-loving travelers are dishing up at Wanderfood Wednesday at Wanderlust & Lipstick.

Friday, February 10, 2012

My Kind of Town

I've been to Chicago at least a dozen times in the last 10 years or so. Given that, it's shocking how little of the city I've experienced in terms of tourist attractions. There's a pretty simple reason for that: most of my visits revolve around the people I love in the Windy City.

So while our visit last weekend involved a couple of world-class museums, delicious deep dish pizza,  walks around downtown and along Michigan Avenue, the best part of all were the great friends we shared it with.

Like introducing your Arrows to your friend's Arrows.

And spending more time with these adorable (and identical!) twin girls.

And letting your friends get to know your Arrows a little better.

And dining with this crazy cast of characters.

Chicago, with such wonderful people, we're sure to be back again soon!

Sneak peaks at our visit to the Chicago Children's Museum and Museum of Science and Industry are here.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Looking in on the world

I've got so much to say about our trip to Chicago last weekend. But here is a sneak peak at all the fun Big Arrow had. He's at the beautiful age where each day his world gets bigger and his discoveries get broader. Museum visits are turning into giant learning opportunities and it's so fun to watch him soak it all up like a sponge.

"Feeling" a tornado at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Peeking in at all the tiny treasures at the Chicago Children's Museum.

More to come about our trip. Tomorrow I'll be loving on all the great friends we got to visit while there.

This post is a part of You Capture at I Should Be Folding Laundry. The theme this week is Looking In. Big Arrow certainly had a lot to "look in" at last weekend!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Super Bowl Village: My Favorite Photos

Earlier this week, I offered up my tips for visiting the Super Bowl Village in Indianapolis with kids. I've heard from a lot of people who visited this week, and the consensus seems to be that it was such a great experience for adults and kids alike. As thousands of Giants and Patriots fans arrive over the next few days, I wanted to share a few of my favorite moments from our day:

My husband snapped this picture (he wanted me to be sure to give him photo credit). I've always loved Monument Circle because its the symbol of the city and the hub of downtown activity (and I got engaged there 9 years ago!)

Even the planters around downtown were showing the football love.

Super Dad at the Super Bowl!

A lot of people think cold weather cities don't make good Super Bowl venues. But I bet you can't watch the crew from Ice Brigade sculpt in Miami!

It was hard to get Big Arrow to pause for a picture because he was too busy having fun on the football field at Touchdown Alley.

Gotta end with the zipline. Watching people fly overhead never got old. Be sure to see my video of the zipline to get the full experience.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicous Baby.